Betty Comden


The world of the musical has lost a key figure – lyricist and librettist Betty Comden died of heart failure earlier this week.  Along with Adolph Green (who died in 2002), she contributed to such gems as Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town and Wonderful Townand Jule Styne’s Bells Are Ringing.  The pair also wrote various screenplays, including the wonderful script for Singin’ in the Rain, so their work is certainly going to outlive them by many, many decades.

Some of the more obscure musicals that Comden and Green contributed to (always, always a partnership) are particular favourites of mine, although come to think of it, I’ve only ever heard the music and read the libretti for these, as they are so seldom performed.  Their absolute best, in my view, was On the Twentieth Century, a farce with a score by the great Cy Coleman.  Set on board a train, it’s wonderful fun with a cast of larger than life characters who typify the comedic gifts of Comden and Green.  They created parts and song lyrics which are an absolute gift to the actor and the audience alike.  Their contributions to film and musical theatre will no doubt be greatly missed by a great many people.

I leave you with a verse from ‘Some Other Time’, a poignant song from On the Town:

Just when the fun is starting
Comes the time for parting
But let’s be glad for what we had
And what’s to come

Oh, well
We’ll catch up some other time

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